Administrator Samantha Power at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Veeraya Kate Somvongsiri Incoming USAID Mission Director for Tanzania

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Monday, July 19, 2021

As Prepared

Thank you, Diana, and to my esteemed colleagues participating in today’s ceremony––outgoing Mission Director Karas, Ambassador Wright, Chargé d’affaires Jean Msabila, I’m glad we could be together virtually to swear in our current Deputy as our new Mission Director to Tanzania.

Kate––Congratulations and thank you.

It’s fitting that so many of your colleagues from USAID bureaus and offices around the world, the State Department, and your friends and family are joining us today as well. Throughout your personal and professional life, it’s clear you’ve been a source of inspiration and a dear friend who brings joy into the lives of friends and colleagues alike.

“Kate was and continues to be, the smartest person in the room,” a close colleague said. “Her intelligence, paired with a clear-eyed and calm demeanor, a commitment to listening, a strong moral compass, and a compassion for others, make her an ideal leader.”

But I’m also told that you’re a phenomenal cook! In fact your cooking has sustained colleagues and neighbors through some of your posts’ most difficult stretches––and for that, I should acknowledge your mom who is with you at home in Oklahoma. Mrs. Somvongsiri, I’m so glad you could join us today on this special occasion.

As you already know, Kate, your tenure as Mission Director begins at a critical time for the partnership between Tanzania and the United States. In the face of the ongoing pandemic that claimed the lives of so many in Tanzania, and is showing troubling spikes both in the country and the region; following several years of democratic backsliding in Tanzania - but also amidst hopeful signs of progress in President Hassan’s early tenure; and with a climate crisis that is already impacting the lives and livelihoods of the Tanzanian population, so many of whom live in rural areas that are dependent on rainfed agriculture which is threatened by increasing temperatures, record droughts, and intense rains.

I want to commend your efforts, the efforts of outgoing Mission Director Andrew Karas, and those of your Tanzanian counterparts to join the global effort to combat COVID-19, including the convening of an expert committee to review the country’s COVID-19 policy and Tanzania’s recent decision to join COVAX.

The close collaboration between our Mission and the Tanzanian government is reaping dramatic benefits for the Tanzanian people. The Mission worked closely with the Ministry of Health to get their COVAX application in on time, and shortly after Tanzania joined, they were informed that they could potentially receive their first doses earlier if they were able to meet tight deadlines. As a result, GAVI is now planning to deliver an early batch of 360,000 doses of U.S.-donated J&J vaccines to Tanzania by the end of the month.

And on the democracy and governance front, following the government’s commitment to improve democratic governance - our mission is seeking to build on recent progress in strengthening transparency, accountability, and civil and human rights—progress that Kate will build on.

Tanzania is not unique in experiencing democratic declines in recent years. What is unique is an incoming Mission Director who worked to channel the Ukrainian people’s democratic aspirations into reform during the country’s Revolution of Dignity in 2014.

My path first crossed with Kate’s in 2009 in Indonesia and again in 2014 when I served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. An established Democracy Officer in multiple USAID Missions, Kate found herself leading USAID Ukraine’s Office of Democracy and Governance amid the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia.

On the ground in Ukraine, Kate was pooling efforts to bring together Conflict and Stabilization Operations leaders and supporting the Ukrainian people as they established the historic Reanimation Reform Package––a coalition of more than a hundred advocates, policy experts, and journalists, who today continue to hold government leaders accountable and develop concrete proposals for how their commitments to a more democratic Ukraine can actually be met.

A colleague who fondly remembers Kate’s leadership in Ukraine expressed what many who work with her soon realize: “Kate is so good at listening to and building relationships with people of different cultures and nationalities...she makes an effort to meet people where they are." I’ve always found that kind of empathy essential to making a difference in global affairs, and it is a value Kate lives out every day.

Ukraine’s citizens made it clear they wanted change. Kate’s demonstrated experience supporting civil society and the public sector fostered stronger institutions, greater accountability and transparency, successful civic engagement, and a glimmer of hope for the kind of democratic governance the Ukrainian people have been waiting for.

Turning people’s resolve into results. Engendering hope where the hardship is great and the path to lasting change is long. That’s what USAID Missions around the world are tasked with. And Kate, you have already shown your commitment and your capacity to do just that.

As Deputy Mission Director in Tanzania, you were able to lead and learn from the foreign service officers and local staff who work tirelessly to address the issues facing the country. You’ve experienced the warmth and dedication of the Tanzanian people and established yourself as a partner of their government, civil society, and citizenry.

Thank you for your commitment to this Agency, our ideals, and our mission.

And with that, it is now my honor to administer the oath.

Last updated: July 19, 2021

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